Weekend racing round-up: Festival clues at Cheltenham and Navan
David Metcalf | December 14, 2015
More Of That gets Gold Cup quote after impressive success
More Of That maintained his unbeaten record over fences with a smooth success over two rivals in the Raymond Mould Memorial Novices’ Chase at Prestbury Park.
He has been introduced into the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup betting at 20/1 by Coral after trainer Jonjo O’Neill said he could be given an entry in chasing’s blue ribbon contest.
Former World Hurdle winner More Of That jumped well throughout in the hands of Barry Geraghty before surging clear up the hill to easily beat Sametegal by 13 lengths.
There was a lot to like about the performance, and More Of That has the potential to go right to the very top over fences.
The seven-year-old was left unchanged at 6/1 with Coral for the 2016 RSA, but O’Neill has not ruled out a possible tilt at the Gold Cup for his stable star.
He said: “I’m very pleased with how he went. We’ll see where we go from here. He has plenty of toe for 2m 4f and stays 3m so there are many options for him.
“He could even go for the Gold Cup. Why not? I’ll have to talk to the boys but I wouldn’t be afraid to put him in it. He’s one of those horses who keeps plenty for himself.”
Sceau Royal enhances Triumph Hurdle claims
Sceau Royal made it two wins on the bounce with a smooth success in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham, and has been given an opening quote of 16/1 by Coral for the big race itself next March.
The Alan King-trained three-year-old travelled smoothly towards rear of the field for much of the race before being produced to challenge at the last under a confident Daryl Jacob.
Sceau Royal then quickened nicely to put the race to bed, and only had to be driven out to the line to beat Adrien Du Pont with more in hand than the winning margin of 1 3/4 lengths suggests.
King revealed after the race that Sceau Royal would now be given a mid-winter break before returning for the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton in February prior to a tilt at Triumph.
The Barbury Castle handler, who landed the Triumh Hurdle with Penzance in 2007 and Katchit in 2009, said: “We hoped for that. The horse is really progressing and is very quick over his hurdles.
“Katchit was exceptional, but this horse has got plenty of boot and he doesn’t want to be in front too long. Hopefully that puts him in the mix for the Triumph.”
Old Guard battles to International success
Old Guard is being targeted at the 2016 Champion Hurdle by trainer Paul Nicholls, after taking another step forward to land a game success in the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The four-year-old dug deep to beat the Willie Mullins trained Sempre Medici by a length, and is 14/1 (from 25s) with Coral for the Champion.
Old Guard is now unbeaten in three runs this season, having previously landed a handicap at at the track in October and the valuable Greatwood Hurdle at The Open meeting last month. Being three from three around Prestbury Park cannot be underestimated.
The gelding is clearly progressing at a rate of knots, and Nicholls believes there is even better to come. “I never dreamt he’d improve this much and I think he’ll keep improving,” Old Guard’s trainer said.
“He will have a break and we might look at bringing him back in the Kingewell Hurdle at Wincanton in February. He’ll be trained for the Champion Hurdle.”
The big disappointment in the International was the odds-on favourite Peace And Co, who trailed in a well-beaten last of six having pulled like a train throughout and raced far too keenly at the heads of affairs.
Trainer Nicky Henderson believes an early-race collision, which resulted in a cut to Peace And Co’s hind leg, may have been the cause of last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner racing too freely.
Henderson insists that Champion Hurdle hopes for Peace And Co remain alive, but Coral have pushed the four-year-old out to 12/1 (from 7s) for the feature race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival next March.
Bellshill new favourite for Neptune after awesome display
Bellshill is the new clear 5/1 favourite with Coral for the 2016 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle following an ultra-impressive display in the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle.
The Willie Mullins trained gelding, who was a Grade 1 bumper winner at Punchestown back in April, followed up his debut hurdles win at Cork with a facile 12 length success over the highly regarded Tycoon Prince.
Bellshill made a slight mistake at the third last when tanking along at the head of affairs under jockey Ruby Walsh, but quickly recovered and showed a smart turn of foot between the final two flights to put the race to bed in a matter of strides.
Mullins said: “The manner in which he quickened from the second-last in that ground, I was very taken with him. I was particularly pleased the way he handled the ground. He can tidy up his jumping but did everything nicely. He’ll probably now go to Naas for the Lawlors Hotel Hurdle next month.”